Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting by Suzanne Brooker

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The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting
by Suzanne Brooker


ISBN-13: 9780804137553
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 18, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.com.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
Noted instructor/painter Suzanne Brooker presents the fundamentals necessary for mastering landscape oil painting, breaking landscapes down into component parts: sky, terrain, trees, and water. Each featured element builds off the previous, with additional lessons on the latest brushes, paints, and other tools used by artists. Key methods like observation, rendering, and color mixing are supported by demonstration paintings and samples from a variety of the best landscape oil painters of all time. Oil painters looking to break into landscape painting or enhance their work will find all the necessary ingredients for success.


My Review:
The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting is a "how-to" instruction book for oil painters who want to improve their landscape painting. The author broke the process down into the most basic steps, like closely looking at the subject, the different types of brush strokes used to make different textures, and choosing toned grounds that enhance the colors used over it. Since she went into detail before the demonstrations, I found them more useful than art books where it's more the artist vaguely explaining the colors and order that he used. Her demonstrations show how to put all the previous information together.

She started the book with the typical materials section. She assumed the reader has a certain familiarity with oil painting. For example, she did describe how to apply a toned ground but didn't provide a picture of the process. She gets basic with the landscape painting sections, and she devoted a chapter each to sky, terrain, trees, water, and then putting it all together. Within each section, she discussed observation, brush strokes, and colors, and then did demonstration paintings showing step-by-step how to put this information to work.

I felt like the author was both a good painter and good instructor. I'm still a beginner at landscape oil painting, and information in this book has helped me to improve my landscapes. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those--like me--who are trying to learn landscape oil painting without an instructor.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Classic Human Anatomy in Motion by Valerie L. Winslow

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Classic Human Anatomy in Motion
by Valerie L. Winslow


ISBN-13: 9780770434144
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 4, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Cover:
Fine-art instruction books do not usually focus on anatomy as it relates to movement, despite its great artistic significance. Written by a long-time expert on drawing and painting human anatomy, Classic Human Anatomy in Motion offers artists everything they need to realistically draw the human figure as it is affected by movement.

Written in a friendly style, the book is illustrated with hundreds of life drawing studies (both quick poses and long studies), along with charts and diagrams showing the various anatomical and structural components.

This comprehensive manual features five distinct sections, each focusing on a different aspect of the human figure: bones and joint movement, muscle groups, surface form and soft tissue characteristics, structure, and movement. Each chapter builds an artistic understanding of how motion transforms the human figure and can create a sense of expressive vibrancy in one's art.


My Review:
Classic Human Anatomy in Motion is an anatomy book for artists who draw, paint, or sculpt human nudes. Much of the information can be applied to clothed figures, too, which is how I intend to use it. I appreciated that the nude figures were treated respectfully (rather than shown in sexually suggestive poses) and really were anatomically accurate.

This book contained many high-quality illustrations. Many of the illustrations showed the bones and muscles of the human body as you'd find them in an anatomy book. The author also pointed out which features can be seen on the surface and to look for them as reference points when drawing. She described the motions that each joint can do and how muscles work, so you can more realistically render the human body when it's in motion. To quote the book description, "each chapter builds an artistic understanding of how motion transforms the human figure."

Rather than having the reader repeat her drawings as exercises, the author described how to draw the figure you are interested in (from models, everyday life, pictures, or video). She suggested warm-up exercises and ways to suggest an active (rather than passive) figure. She gave some advice about working from your imagination, but she generally assumed that you'll have some reference to draw from as you work.

I'm familiar with human anatomy from my college days. I was impressed with the quality of this work, and it was a good refresher course for me. It has helped me understand how to apply that knowledge to my art. Overall, I'd recommend this book to artists who want to improve their depictions of human figures.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using a Look Inside feature.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Industrial Revolution by Laura L. Frader

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The Industrial Revolution:
A History in Documents
by Laura L. Frader


ISBN-13: 9780195128178
Hardcover: 158 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Released: April 6, 2006

Source: Bought used online.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The Industrial Revolution: A History in Documents uses a wide variety of primary source documents to chronicle a period of great international social and technological change that began in England in the 18th century.

Improvements were made to the steam engine that meant that many tasks that had been done by hand in the past could be mechanized. With locomotives and steamships, goods could now be transported very quickly and within a reasonably predictable time. Other changes included the use of iron and steel, invention of new machines that increased production (including the spinning jenny), development of the factory system, and important developments in transportation and communication (including the telegraph). This all led to agricultural improvements, a wider distribution of wealth, political changes reflecting the shift in economic power, and sweeping social changes.

This book relies on primary sources such as personal diaries, advice books, poems, business reports, letters, photos, and essays to tell the story behind this rapidly changing period and its far-reaching effects.


My Review:
The Industrial Revolution is a historical nonfiction book about the Industrial Revolution and is based on documents from the time period. These documents allow the reader to see different views of the changes at the time they were occurring.

The focus started out in England and, as time moved on, to America and parts of Europe. The book started by describing what life was like before the Industrial Revolution and then showed how things changed. It included excerpts from essays, diaries, books, business reports, letters, and even a few poems. It also included black and white photographs and illustrations from the time period. The editors provided some information before the text of each document to help the reader to understand the context of the document.

I found this book to be easy to understand and very informative. I'd highly recommend it to those who want to better understand the social changes--especially those in England--at the time of the Industrial Revolution.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

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The Jane Austen Handbook
by Margaret C. Sullivan


ISBN-13: 9781594741715
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Released: May 1, 2007

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Every young lady dreams of a life spent exchanging witty asides with a dashing Mr. Darcy, but how should you let him know your intentions? This charming guide provides step-by-step instructions for proper comportment in the early nineteenth century. You'll discover:

How to behave at your first ball.
How to ride sidesaddle.
How to decline an unwanted marriage proposal.
How to improve your estate.
How to throw a dinner party.

--and much more! It offers readers a glimpse into day-to-day life in Jane Austen's time and includes information on the English class system, currency, dress, and the nuances of graceful living.


My Review:
The Jane Austen Handbook described manners and aspects of daily life in Regency England, which is the time period of Jane Austen's novels. Some of it is information that you pick up just from reading her novels or watching the movies. However, there was a fair amount of other information that helps to fill out what life was like for the landed folk in England.

It included information like what the different servants do, correct behavior at a ball, how children were educated, how much someone's income was worth in modern terms, and so on. She included things that will help you to better understand the novels and things you simply might be curious about.

The author didn't go into great detail, but she covered a wide variety of subjects. The light tone makes it very readable and enjoyable. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen who want to know a little more about what life was like in the Regency Period.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Victorian People in Life and Literature by Gillian Avery

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Victorian People in Life and Literature
by Gillian Avery


ISBN-13: 9780030666551
Hardcover: 255 pages
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Released: 1970

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description:
Gillian Avery describes what life was like for the different social classes, what visitors thought of Victorian society, and rural and city/industrial life. She comments on some literature (novels and nonfiction sources) that accurately portray life and on some that didn't. Chapter headings: Victorian times, French and American Visitors, The Aristocracy, Society Life, Squire and Cottager, The Middle Classes, The Church, Cities and Industry, Life in Mean Streets, Poverty and Destitution, and Criminals. Illustrated from contemporary sources.


My Review:
Victorian People in Life and Literature explores life in England during Victorian times. It started with the rich and worked on down to the very poor, including information on workhouses and the prison system. It looked at farm life and at life in industrial cities. It quoted comments by foreign visitors, magazines of the time period, and bits from novels that accurately portray the times.

The illustrations were cartoons and line drawings taken from magazines from that time period. The book was very readable and interesting, and it came across as well-researched. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in learning more about what the living conditions and social attitudes were like during this time period.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay

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The Brilliant History of Color
by Victoria Finlay


ISBN-13: 9781606064290
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum
Released: November 1, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.com.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Victoria Finlay takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Readers will revel in a treasure trove of fun-filled facts and anecdotes.

Were it not for Cleopatra, for instance, purple might not have become the royal color of the Western world. Without Napoleon, the black graphite pencil might never have found its way into the hands of C├ęzanne. Without mango-eating cows, the sunsets of Turner might have lost their shimmering glow. And were it not for the pigment cobalt blue, the halls of museums worldwide might still be filled with forged Vermeers.

The book is written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists and is illustrated with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum.


My Review:
The Brilliant History of Color explores the origins of pigments and dyes that were popular for painting, glazes, wallpapers, and clothing. For each pigment or dye, she told the story of how it was found or who made it popular or of a famous person who loved to use it. She often gave dates of when the color was first known to be in use and if it was removed from use due to safety concerns. She also talked about things like the move from wood panels to linen canvas for painting.

The author started with some of the oldest pigments and dyes used, like manganese black, red ocher, Egyptian Blue, yellow ocher, Tyrian Purple, cinnabar, black ink, gold leaf, green earth, ultramarine, cochineal, logwood black, cobalt, lead white, indigo, Indian yellow, madder red, graphite, and mummy brown. She then discussed the modern (1850s until now) explosion in color possibilities with colors like mauve, Prussian blue, manganese violet, chrome yellow, and cadmium yellow.

The stories were entertaining, informative, and contained interesting trivia. The book is targeted at tween or teens, and it's more a story of ongoing developments in color and their uses than a who-what-when-where-why history focused on the pigments. Overall, I'd recommend this entertaining and informative book to those looking for a quick look at color history.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Men of War by Alexander Rose

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Men of War:
The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima
by Alexander Rose


ISBN-13: 9780553805185
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Random House
Released: June 2, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
In the grand tradition of John Keegan’s enduring classic The Face of Battle comes a searing, unforgettable chronicle of war through the eyes of the American soldiers who fought in three of our most iconic battles: Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. This is not a book about how great generals won their battles, nor is it a study in grand strategy. Men of War is instead a riveting, visceral look at ordinary soldiers under fire.

Drawing on an immense range of firsthand sources from the battlefield, Rose begins by re-creating the lost and alien world of eighteenth-century warfare at Bunker Hill, the bloodiest clash of the War of Independence—and reveals why the American militiamen were so lethally effective against the oncoming waves of British troops. Then, focusing on Gettysburg, Rose describes a typical Civil War infantry action, vividly explaining what Union and Confederate soldiers experienced before, during, and after combat. Finally, he shows how in 1945 the Marine Corps hurled itself with the greatest possible violence at the island of Iwo Jima, where nearly a third of all Marines killed in World War II would die.

To an unprecedented degree, Men of War brings home the reality of combat and, just as important, its aftermath in the form of the psychological and medical effects on veterans.


My Review:
"Men of War" details what battle was like for soldiers at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. The book came across as extensively researched, and the author quoted from many diaries and letters written by those who actually lived through these battles. He gave an overview of the battle then went into detail about what weapons the soldiers had, what damage those weapons did, what the battle experience was at various locations or in various situations (like for the defending infantry and for the attacking infantry), what the experience of the wounded was like (including the medical care of the time), and how they coped after the battle. Though I understand why the author included this level of detail, I could have lived with a "the mortar pulverized the body" description rather than the graphic, detailed blood-and-guts version we got. This was not a book I could read before going to sleep.

I felt that the author gave a balanced view of the battles and tried to present the attitudes they had toward the experience of battle at each time period rather than imposing our modern views on them. I freely grant that I haven't read every battle book out there, but this is the first time I've read a good, reasonable explanation for why the British acted as they did at Bunker Hill.

Overall, I found this book very worth the time of reading it. And it's dense, so it took some time. I'd recommend this informative book to anyone interested in what the experience of battle was like in these battles.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.